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Universal Studios open at reduced capacity due to coronavirus

After months of being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, opened at reduced capacity earlier this month. was there to witness what the new reality looks like, with social distancing guidelines in place and prevention tips printed on signs placed throughout the park.  

What once was a lively park of hour-long waits and children running free, is now a desolate area with families donning masks, gloves and other protective gear. 

This comes as Florida is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, having more than 146,341 confirmed cases and at least 3,447 coronavirus-related deaths.  

Universal Studios, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal’s Volcano Bay all reopened in Orlando on June 5 and patrons who returned are expected to separate by six feet in line for rides and attractions.

For enclosed attractions, including performance shows, guests were seen spaced out in the audience and performers wore face coverings. Cleaning staff wiped down the seats and handrails after each performance. 

A volunteer was called up on stage during one of the shows and was given hand sanitizer before participating. 

Indoor dining was available, but as a precaution mobile food and drink orders were taken. People could be seen socially distancing and wearing face masks at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley attraction. 

Those wanting to take pictures with characters and superheroes must stand 12 feet away to snap a selfie. 

Blue signs reminding park-goers to wash their hands and remain socially distant have been erected at nearly every turn at the park. 

And a special area, called the U-Rest area, is designated and monitored for visitors to take a break from wearing face masks at the park. 

Over on the rollercoasters, dare devils were seen enjoying the rides privately as only two rows were seen occupied.  

Last week Universal Orlando laid off an unspecified number of workers less than three weeks after it reopened its theme parks. 

Universal spokesman Tom Schroder announced the news Tuesday, stating: ‘We have made the difficult decision to reduce our parks and resorts workforce across multiple locations and business units’. 

‘We are working to structure and strengthen our business for the future in anticipation of the tourism industry taking time to fully recover. In that regard, we have already taken important steps such as adjusting budgets and implementing salary reductions and furloughs,’ he added.  

Schroder stated that laid-off employees would be offered ‘severance pay, subsidized health benefits and professional reemployment assistance’, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

He did not disclose which roles had been cut, nor which parks or hotels had been most affected. Back in April, many full-time Universal employees were hit with a 20 percent pay cut, and part-time hourly workers were furloughed

Theme park expert Seth Kubersky says he has been informed by sources that ‘those being laid off are not people guests see face to face’.

Kubersky told FOX 35 that those at risk could include ‘people in event management, people in the props department, folks that fabricate the props: things that maybe might not affect guests’ day-to-day experience now but could down the line’.  

According to 2019 report from BizJournal, Universal Orlando is one of the city’s largest employers, with 25,000 workers across their three parks and various resorts.

 Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal’s Volcano Bay were all forced to shutter amid the coronavirus outbreak in mid-March.

On June 5, the parks reopened to the public at a reduced capacity and with a variety of other safety measures in effect. 

However, Kubersky claims the parks have been struggling to attract visitors even while operating at half capacity. 

‘Having visited the parks over the last few weeks, although they’ve had some large crowds on weekends, weekdays are extremely quiet,’ he stated. 

It’s possible that the surging number of coronavirus infections in the Sunshine State is keeping crowds away.   

Florida reported having more than 146,341 confirmed cases. 

The state has had at least 3,447 coronavirus-related deaths. 

Walt Disney World, which is also located in Orlando, is scheduled to reopen on July 11. However, employees and unions are now pressuring executives to push back that date in light of the health risks. 

‘This virus is not gone, unfortunately it’s only become worse in this state,’ one Disney employee wrote on 

‘With a record high of 4,049 new COVID-19 cases in a single day on June 20, 2020, we are now backtracking from where we originally were.’

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